Turn over a rock or two at the edge of a mountain stream, and you’re likely to uncover a salamander. Chances are, it’ll be a northern dusky (Desmognathus fuscus) or a two-lined (Eurycea bislineata)—they’re both common in this habitat.
Crouched along a seepy brook at Vermont Family Forests’ Abraham’s Knees land in Lincoln, I strike gold on my second try. As I lift one edge of a flat rock the size of my hand, a tiny salamander—shorter than a pinky finger—quickly wriggles out of sight. Over the next few minutes, my search yields a handful of northern dusky salamanders.
Any salamander sighting is a joy and privilege, period. But these days, we at VFF are especially tuned to the spring salamander, Gyrinophilus porphyriticus. That’s the species ambling across our brand new bumper sticker, making her way between the words “Organic Forestry” and “Optimal Conservation for the Whole Community.”
Why a spring salamander? Because they are so particularly dependent on the healthy habitat that results from VFF’s organic forestry practices. One of Vermont’s biggest salamanders—up to 8″ long—spring salamanders are only found in and around healthy forested mountain streams and springs.
Though they’re only found in mountain streams and springs like the one I’m searching, they’re much less common and harder to spot than their smaller cousins. Since the ongoing ecological monitoring of the Colby Hill Ecological Project began in 1998, we’ve had just one confirmed report, back in 2005, of a spring salamander on VFF’s Anderson lands in Lincoln, in a spring that feeds into Isham Brook.
After hatching from eggs secured individually to the underside of submerged rocks, spring salamander larvae live in the water for up to four years before becoming terrestrial. They depend on clear, clean, cool, sediment- and pesticide-free streams for their survival, so if a mountain stream supports spring salamanders, that’s a good indicator that people are caring well for the forestlands within that watershed.
VFF’s Checklist of Organic Forest Conservation Practices identifies specific, practical, hands-on ways to work in and care for the forest in ways that go a long way toward protecting the health of the whole forest community.
In upcoming posts, we’ll be looking more closely at these practices–how they benefit the forest community and how to carry them out in your forest. Please let us know if you have any questions along the way. And let us know if you’d like one of our new bumper stickers to spread the word about the benefits of organic forestry practices.